Monday, December 20, 2010

Owl Hats

Sleepy Pink Hoot

Rainbow Hoot

My desk in the disarray of assembly (a typical sight ;-)

Original Hoot

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lesson: Wegener-Continental Drift-Plate Tectonics

There's nothing really original here, just a bunch of information and activities consolidated from different websites. I thought I would post so that it could possibly save someone the extra work. We certainly had a lot of fun and learned a lot at the same time!

Alfred Wegener:

Slide Show Presentation:

Evidence and Activity for Continental Drift:

Instead of using the printout from the activity, we used tracing paper and an old map to make construction paper overlays of the continents. Playdoh was used to make the connecting mountain chains and we cut out copies of the various fossils to glue in the places they were found. The map underly has the plate boundaries drawn on it which was useful for discussing plate boundaries and hotspots further along in the lesson.

Construction of the Earth
Lithosphere, Mantle, Crust

How do we know?
Seismic waves

Convection currents carry the earth’s crust
Science Experiment:

Types of Plate Boundaries:

Hot Spots: Hawaii & Yellowstone

Why do the continents rise out of the ocean?

This would flow nicely into a lesson on the rock cycle...we've already done that so we got it a bit out of order.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NOT Back to school-A Day in the Life

‘Typical Days’ are hard to come by around here. We spend at least two days out of the house every week (errands, library, homeschool co-op), another one or two days at home, but in the company of friends, and when you throw in a once or twice a month field trip you realize that there just isn’t one day that’s the same as the next!

Our day starts somewhere around 8-9am, which is late for a lot of homeschoolers, I realize. We’ve adapted our schedule to work with my husband’s work schedule, so in the evenings we have a later dinner and stay up a bit longer to have some time with him. Taylor & Bear like to read in their rooms at night and will occasionally stay up until 11 or later if they’re wrapped up in a good story. They’ve discovered that this is about the only time the house is peaceful since Chloe stopped taking a nap! I’m incredibly reluctant to tell any child to put down a book for any reason, unless their life is in danger, of course, and I feel that this is one of the reasons that we homeschool. Our life revolves around OUR schedule and our interests, not something imposed on us by society. Hooray for homeschooling!

Our mornings are fairly relaxed. I try to make sure we do things in the proper order, like eating breakfast and then clearing the table BEFORE we get the school books out, but sometimes we are practicing writing whilst eating Cocoa Puffs, I must admit. When the 4-year-old adamantly INSISTS on practicing her letters would you tell her “No?” The preferred order of events goes something like this:

Breakfast & cleanup
Morning Chores
“On their own” activities like writing, math and grammar practice

I like to put a CD in to listen to as we work on these things. I’m always impressed with the knowledge they can pick up from just hearing songs in the background. Some of our favorite tunes to “learn by osmosis” from include:

Lyrical Life Science
Lyrical Earth Science
Classical Kids

Frequently things don’t go according to schedule. Sometimes I will be upstairs switching the laundry while Bear is ricocheting a bouncy ball around the entry way, and I try to remind myself that my highly kinetic learner is learning important information about physics and anticipating trajectories, while I patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) remind him for the second, third or fourth time to go feed the dogs. Sometimes I will come downstairs after doing my chores to find them all engrossed in an imaginary world of some sort, happily playing and laughing together. I think imaginative play is highly underrated, and that most kids don’t get enough of it. When I find them in this condition, I leave them uninterrupted...for as long as it takes. Some smart guy once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I think his name might have been Einstein? ;-)

I try to make sure we cover every subject in a day, and to keep the workload balanced so they don't get overloaded. One of my biggest challenges as a homeschooling Mom has been to come up with a schedule that offers just enough structure and something to benchmark our yearly accomplishments but not so much that it kicks in my free-spirited rebellious streak wherein I begin to feel like our daily tasks are overwhelming and over-complicated, and I just want to give up. There is truth in the saying: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." Flexibility in scheduling and lesson planning is definitely important in homeschooling!

We usually try to schedule an hour or two each day of “Instruction” time. This is teaching time that includes both Taylor & Bear and frequently Chloe. Though I don’t require Chloe to sit in with us she often does because she just wants to be included. She has picked up on so much material beyond her age range (like memorizing the first 36 elements from the periodic table) just from this simple fact. Their Opa (my Dad) chalks it up to the joys of an uncluttered mind and I think I have to agree with him!

So instruction time usually involves reading through a lesson or chapter together, discussing to make sure they understand, and then doing an activity together to help cement this knowledge. One instruction period typically lasts about an hour, and we usually do one before lunch, and one after lunch. Subjects that we use this method for include History, Grammar, Science and Math. Obviously with only two instruction times each day we can’t cover all four subjects in that manner, so for the other two subjects we take a lighter approach. For example, if we read a chapter of Science together, with discussion and activity time, and then after lunch covered a History lesson; then for Math they would work on their own on worksheets from the lesson for that week, or practice their addition/multiplication facts in a computer game, and for Grammar we might sit down and do some Mad Libs together. The next day we would cover Math and Grammar in more depth while taking a lighter approach with Science and History.

Often we are done with our schoolwork before 3, at which point they will clean up their books, papers & whatnot. I usually send them upstairs to neaten their rooms and if they are saving money for a toy or something special then this is the time they can offer to do extra chores for payment. Otherwise they each have 30 minutes each of computer & TV time, and free time until it is time to clean up and get ready for dinner. Usually I will send them upstairs to clean and they will be distracted with their toys and end up playing and I won’t see them again for an hour or two, at which point I have to send them back upstairs to clean up the even bigger messes! Some days we stretch the T.V. time out longer and watch a movie or documentary together.

Stop by Heart of the Matter to peek in on A Day in the Life of other Homeschoolers!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts On Being Real...

"What is REAL?"..."Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?"

"Sometimes, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept..."

"...Generally, by they time you are Real, most of your hair has been rubbed off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby..."

"...But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why I Love Homeschooling #5: Sick Days

Bear (8) is sick today. He had a rough night last night as he has a difficult time sleeping with a stuffy nose. This morning we had plans to run to the church garden to pick tomatoes for the food pantry, drop off & pick up more books at the library, and visit with Oma at her house for a bit. Everyone in the house was up and going by 8am except for Bear. Luckily none of these activities had a time frame on them, so I decided to let the boy sleep as long as he wanted. I was reminded how nice it was not to have to drag him out of bed to see just HOW sick he really was, and then do the should I/shouldn't I send him to school routine. I remember my Mom having to do that to me, and I remember her stressing over how many days I had already been absent, and if I could afford to miss another day. I distinctly recall going to school feeling miserable quite a few times.

Once when I was in High School I contracted a stomach bug. I spent a few days at home and then it was decided that I needed to go back to school so I didn't miss any more days. I went back to class, but couldn't keep anything in my stomach. I had to keep leaving class to run to the bathroom and finally got so dehydrated that I had to be hospitalized overnight with an IV to re-hydrate me. I can't help thinking that that was one hospital bill that could have been avoided with a few more days at home in bed. I wonder how many other kids ended up getting sick because I had to go back to class while I was still contagious?

I am so thankful that I don't have to worry about keeping my kids at home when they are sick! If they need to sleep in or take a nap it is no problem. Our outside activities are flexible and our friends and family are understanding. When Bear finally got out of bed at 10am, bleary eyed and snuffly, he promptly came to ask: "Bob, I dod feel gewd, do we HAB to go oud today?" I was happy to be able to tell him that we could certainly stay home.

He's been resting for the most part today, though he did ask me to play a game of Dinosaurs vs. Army Men with him. There was rolling of the dice involved and adding and subtracting and even some multiplication. He also managed to get in some writing and educational games on We had a minor meltdown over the writing, which was when I realized that I might be asking a bit too much of a sickly kiddo, but with a break to rest and a modification of the assignment it all went smoothly once again. It's not been his most productive day, educationally speaking, but pretty good for a sick day!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

2010-2011 School Year Curriculum

Taylor (Fourth Grade)

Rod & Staff English
Write Source
Math Wrap Ups multiplication/division
Read to Chloe Daily

Reading: Book List
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (DONE 08/10)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Read 04/07...will re-read)
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
A Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte Yonge
Bambi by Felix Salten
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Little Britches series by Ralph Moody
The Borrowers series by Mary Norton (DONE 8/25)
Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight
Gentle Ben by Walt Morey
Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Return To Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia Hale
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Tree of Freedom by Rebecca Caudill
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
The Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savery
Justin Morgan had a Horse by Marguerite Henry
Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeline L’Engle (finished through Swiftly Tilting Planet 12/10)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Bear (Third Grade)

Work on letter/number reversals
HWT Block Paper
Draw Write Now with HWT’s Draw and Write Notebook
Shurley English
Math Wrap Ups addition/subtraction
Read to Chloe Daily

Reading: Book List
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford audio version (finished 12/31)
The Call of the Wild by Jack London abridged (finished 1/3)
Heidi by Joanna Spyri
A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning
Abraham Lincoln by Ingri D'Aulaire
Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Chanticleer and the Fox - Barbara Cooney
Along Came A Dog by Meindert De Jong
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
Because of Winn-Dixie By Kate DiCamillo

Chloe (Kindergarten-ish)

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick
The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
BOB Books
Free Printable Readers by Henriette Taylor Treadwell

Be read to by T, B, Mommy & Daddy (and anyone else she can get to sit still for a minute)
All Things Bright and Beautiful by Ashley Bryan
Dr. Seuss Books (multiple readings)
The Little Bear Books by Maurice Sendak
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (finished 1/9)
The Margaret Wise Brown Books
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee (finished 1/9)
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry
The Real Mother Goose
A.A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh audio book (finished 1/3)
Beatrix Potter
MEP Math
Finger Match
Mazes (pre-writing skills)

All (Include Chloe as Able or Interested)
Chemistry-Elements and Carbon Chemistry
History-Prehistory, SOTW book 1
Daily Devotionals: Training Hearts, Teaching Minds
Scripture Copywork & Memorization
Timed Writing
Spelling City
Mad Libs
Memorize US States, Capitols
Classical Kids
I Know

Outside activities with Co-Op Group or Church
Nature Study

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Fun: Basement Box Castle

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Demonstrating Writing Readiness

I caught Chloe sitting at the kitchen table the other day, talking animatedly to herself and ‘writing’ on the paper in front of her.

“What’cha doin, Chlo?” I asked.
“I’m writing a story!” She replied excitedly. “ doesn’t look right. I want to make the letters.”

I pulled out some lined paper (already used a bit, so ignore the ‘band’ at the top of the page), and a handy laminated page showing the alphabet with arrows indicating the directions for making the letters...

Oh, and our favorite pencils. We LOVE these because they hold their little hands in exactly the right position without them having to strain or even think about it. I ran across them at Staples, you can buy them online too.

She proceeded to happily practice her letters for an hour or so without any prompting on my part.

This kid is very lucky. I don’t think I was anywhere near as prepared for her siblings at that age, and preparation is very important, I’ve found. If you can grab a kid right when they express interest in a subject and toss the necessary materials in front of them to proceed with their interest, they will astound you with what they pick up in a very short amount of time. I later dug up a handwriting practice book that I’d been holding on to for her for several years now and gave it to her. She was thrilled! She couldn’t wait to show Opa when he came to visit the next day...running up to him hugging the book and saying “It’s finally mine!”

We’re officially homeschooling 3 kiddos this year. It’s gonna be one heck of a crazy adventure!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Camping at Lake Winfield Scott

Lake Winfield Scott is located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and one of the main draws for us was its location near a pristine mountain lake. Though the campground itself wasn't our favorite, as far as amenities were concerned (no electric, cold showers in not the best condition), and we ended up leaving a day early because of forecasted thunderstorms, the scenery and fishing did not disappoint. We had a lovely time with our friends the Romicks and were thrilled that Oma & Opa were able to come up and spend the day with us before the weather got yucky.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I went to my Grandfather's funeral with dirt under my fingernails...

It wasn't intentional, by any means, let me just make that clear. It was just that my inheritance from him happened to be a bowl full of okra seeds, soaked and ready for planting and boxes of tomato and pepper seedlings. He really wanted those seedlings transplanted. In fact, the day before he died, the kids and I were over at my Mother's transplanting his baby pepper plants. He was just too sick and in pain to do it, but that's about all he talked about.

My Grandpa was a traveler. He joined the Navy when he was a young man, and lived on and fought off a P.T. boat during WWII. After his enlistment, he traveled all over the country working construction jobs and doing his very best to provide for his family. He wasn't home much, but when he was, he would grow plants and take care of a garden. There's one story in particular that my Mom likes to tell: Grandpa was home for a bit, laid off from work, and they didn't have much money at all to live off of. He would go to the elementary school every day after school let out and dig through the dumpster for the individual size milk cartons. He would save whatever milk was left in them and Grandma would boil it at home to sanitize it. They would use it for cooking and baking. Grandpa took the milk cartons and planted tomato seedlings in them, and they would sell the seedlings on the side of the road to make some extra money.

As a child growing up, I always knew where to find my Grandpa Harry...either outside in his garden or in his basement, fixing something, making something or growing something. On Sunday afternoons after church I would follow him out into the back yard where we'd find some sort of garden chore that needed doing. I don't remember how many times Grandma or Mom reprimanded us for doing "dirty jobs" in our best was a lot, though. He had a corner of his basement that was dedicated to his gardening, with seeds breaking through the dirt in their trays, and seedlings under the fluorescent grow lights ready to go out in the garden or to a friend. I could stand in his little gardening area and smell the musty aroma of damp earth, with green growing things all around me. It felt so magical.

Out in his backyard he had a magic tree too. Every spring it would bloom in three different colors, and in the summer it had three different kinds of fruit on it. I was always in awe of that tree, and in my Grandpa's ability to grow such an amazing thing. Before he died, he passed along to me the knowledge he possessed about grafting different types of trees & plants. It's funny to me that even though I know the "how" behind it now, I don't find it any less magical.

Grandpa came to live with my Mom & Dad in the winter. They didn't have a lot of area for a garden, but that didn't stop him from poring through his seed catalogues and planning his garden anyhow. When springtime came he convinced Mom to purchase some seeds for him online; bell peppers, tomatoes, okra, and a new hybrid of jalapeno that he was so excited about..."all the flavor, none of the heat," the description read. Grandpa loved his peppers. As a child, there were many times I went running into the house coughing and sputtering after Grandpa handed me a pepper of some sort saying: "here, try a bite of this." Grandma would scold him for traumatizing me, but I don't think it bothered me as much as she must have thought. Now that I'm grown...I love hot peppers too.

The seed packets came in and Grandpa planted every seed...way more plants than they would have room for in the garden in the back. He had a plan though. "What if the church would let us put in a garden in that field in front of the parsonage?" he asked my Mom one day. "We could give the vegetables we grow to the food pantry." Mom figured the least she could do was ask, and so she did. We all thought it would take time to get it approved. "Maybe next year..." I remember thinking.

In the meantime, Grandpa's seeds were sprouting. As soon as their leaves come out, he started taking them out into the sun for a few hours every day. He wasn't getting around very well, so you could tell how important his seedlings were to him that he would put so much effort into making sure they got just the right amount of water, and just the right amount of sunlight. They were his babies. When he was hospitalized, he asked about them every day, and gave very detailed instructions of how to take care of them. Mom even re-potted one of his hybrid jalapeƱos to take to the hospital so he could make sure they were growing well, to reassure him.

He came from the hospital under hospice care, so we all knew there wouldn't be much time left with him. The church board of trustees surprised us with a very quick response in approval of the garden project. The ground was prepared and a groundbreaking day was chosen for the Sunday after he came home. He was too weak to participate but we hoped to at least get him into the car and to the garden where he could watch. His peppers and tomatoes still needed to be transplanted, though, and with Mom busy taking care of him, that very privileged responsibility fell to me. After we transplanted the peppers into their new pots Thursday evening, we took them into his room to get his approval. He ran his fingers over the plants very gently, just barely caressing the tender leaves. Then he looked at me and, between ragged breaths, began to tell me to be careful about leaving them in the sun too long right after they were transplanted. They had to be out for the right amount of time, at just the right time of day. "Those tomatoes need to be transplanted too, don't forget," he said. I told him I would be back the next day to take care of them. I didn't get to hug him before we left...he was just in too much pain to be touched. But I told him I loved him & we'd see him tomorrow.

That night he took a turn for the worse, and by the next morning he was gone.

Several days went by in a fog, and then in the rush of funeral arrangements and out-of-town family. The day of his funeral, I found myself back at my parents' house dropping off food between the visitation and the service. As I passed by the windows looking out onto the back porch, I caught glimpse of the tomato seedlings, now very tightly crammed together in their seedling box. "I have some time before the service," I thought to myself. So on the day of his funeral, there I was in my best Sunday clothes, out on the back porch, planting okra seeds and transplanting tomato seedlings...

....and later, at his service, when I looked down in sorrow with tears in my eyes, I saw that I still had dirt under my fingernails.

I think Grandpa would have been OK with that.

"We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden."